Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Is Bill Cosby guilty of hurting women? It’s more complex than you might think.

October 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Ent., News, Weekly Columns

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( Recently, the sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby re-entered the public sphere due to a joke by comedian Hanibal Burress, who said “You rape women.”  This stunning remark led the public to go back and review the sexual assault allegations against Cosby and where they came from.

This takes us to the story of Barbara Bowman, a woman who says that Cosby assaulted her several times when she was 18-years old.  Bowman says that she was regularly drugged and raped by Cosby, who positioned himself as a mentor for her.  She also says that she was intimidated by him and coerced into several uncomfortable situations where he forced himself upon her.

Some might ask why Bowman chose to continue flying to meet with Cosby if she knew that she was going to be sexually assaulted.   Couldn’t she have chosen to not visit him anymore or to alert the authorities?  Despite her peculiar decision to voluntarily spend so much time with a man who was having his way with her, it’s not difficult to imagine an 18-year old being so star struck by Bill Cosby that she mistakenly thought that this kind of experience was the price of admission into the industry.  She also claims that her agent pressured her into allowing Cosby to do whatever he wanted.

There were some who might say that the allegations from Bowman and others may have been motivated by money.  Many of the cases, coming from 13 different women, were settled out of court for undisclosed amounts, so apparently, money has exchanged hands.  One of the accusers, Attorney Tamara Green, had been disciplined by the California State Bar Association for allegedly stealing $20,000 from her clients and then shutting down her office.

According to People Magazine:

As in so many cases alleging sexual assault, these women make imperfect witnesses. They are talking about events two or three decades old. Many of their recollections are fragmentary, and in some cases, they are not even sure what happened between them and Cosby, though that is not unusual in cases where a possible date-rape drug is involved. None of the women ever contacted police with their stories, either at the time of the alleged assaults or in the years leading up to Constand’s revelations, and two of the five women reached by PEOPLE allowed Cosby to pay part or all of their travel and/or living expenses for some time. 

Despite money being passed around, the notion that the allegations were all financially-motivated is highly questionable for at least three reasons:

1) The massive number of women who’ve come forward (which might mean there are others who were afraid to speak up),

2) the consistency of their stories,


3) the fact that Barbara Bowman couldn’t receive a dime from her interview in Newsweek, since the statute of limitations had passed and she couldn’t be financially compensated in a lawsuit.

It should be remembered, however, that Cosby was never charged, indicted, tried or convicted for any of the crimes.  Also, it’s tough tobill-cosby-2014 understand why none of the victims went to the police right after the incident to have their blood tested for any sort of date rape drug.  Finally, the fact that two of the women went on to have consensual relationships with Bill Cosby and some of them continued to let him pay their bills adds even more confusion to those of us who might be tempted to see Cosby as a scary threat to the women in his presence.

On the flip side of this, we do know that powerful celebrities get away with crime all the time, and some might wonder if Bill Cosby’s wealth and fame protected him from being held accountable for his indiscretions.  If that’s the case, then it’s a sickening reminder of how our justice system is driven by the wrong set of incentives.

As it pertains to money, the fact that Bowman couldn’t file a formal lawsuit against Bill Cosby doesn’t preclude the possibility that she may have sought to extort him.  Cosby has been in other situations where someone has threatened to expose his private life or lie on him if he didn’t offer them money, so this is not an impossibility.   Back in the 1990s, Autumn Jackson, working with several co-conspirators, claimed that she was Cosby’s out-of-wedlock daughter.  She told him that if she didn’t pay him millions, she would go to the media with her story.  So, it’s not out of the question for a news story to be the result of Cosby not folding to financial demands; he’s held his ground on this kind of thing before.

Also, the lack of evidence in these cases reminds us to be careful about making accusations against someone without physical proof or a conviction in the court of law.  But 13 accusers is a big load for anyone to carry, so it’s difficult to know what happened in all of these uncomfortable situations.  It’s honestly very tough to believe that Cosby didn’t do anything wrong, and that’s what makes us uncomfortable.

Read some of Bowman’s interview and share your thoughts.  Do you think it’s possible that Bill Cosby did this to these women?  If so, does that make him hypocritical or less worthy of praise for the good things he’s done for the world?  At what point does an illegal or unethical act take away the value of good things you’ve done?  What will be Bill Cosby’s legacy?

You can read more about the Bowman interview below:

I was a 17-year-old model and up-and-coming actress in Denver, Colorado. My agent knew Bill. I was told that he wanted to scout some new talent — if we were lucky, we would be groomed to go to New York and get more solid training so we could move up the ladder, maybe eventually get to audition for the Cosby Show.

Bill came to town, and my agent set up a meeting for us. I was told that Bill wanted to get to know me and my acting abilities and skill level, and wanted to know what sort of marketing ability I had. He had me come meet him whenever he was in town to do meet-and-greets, and he’d give me acting lessons. Then, he started flying me around to major cities to events to get accustomed to being around celebrities, and, he said, to see if I was worthy of mentoring.

Q: What was it like having Bill Cosby as your mentor?

It was overwhelming. It was surreal and exciting, but it was also scary. He worked me over emotionally and psychologically. He broke me down and really preyed on my insecurities…  I had no father figure in my life, so he zoomed right in on that and tried to make me feel as though he loved me like a father would.

I was young, wide-eyed and impressionable, and he would play games with my head, and manipulate me into believing that he cared about me, that I didn’t have anyone who cared as much as he cared, that I needed to trust him, that I had trust issues and that he would help me overcome those, because they would limit me as an actress. He told me I needed to give into him 100 percent, because he was investing in me, he believed in me.

Financial Juneteenth lessons from this story:

1) If Cosby did commit these crimes, it is a telling example of how a person’s money, fame and power can put them above the law and also intimidate others to the point that they don’t report even the most heinous of crimes.   It is also a reminder of how too much raw ambition can cause us to accept the most egregious behavior from others in exchange for our “big break” or a chance to make more money.   You have to ask whether or not it’s worth it.  It’s usually not.

2) If Bill Cosby is innocent, this story says something about the extent to which people will go to get your money or destroy you.  For Hanibal (the comedian) to make such a serious allegation on stage knowing that Cosby was never convicted might justify a lawsuit against him, or maybe even his part-time employer, Comedy Central.  It’s difficult to say for sure that someone commited a crime when prosecutors say they did not.  At the same time, the overwhelming number of women who’ve come forward with accusations against Cosby can make even the strongest supporter wonder what’s really going on.

3) In our justice system, we’re supposed to assume that people are innocent until proven guilty.  But this doesn’t mean that a person is innocent just because they were never proven guilty.  So, the lack of evidence against Bill Cosby doesn’t exonerate him in the minds of people who’ve read Bowman’s story and believe she might be telling the truth.   But his wealth and fame should not be an excuse not to find out what really happened.

Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins 

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  For more information, please visit


19 Responses to “Is Bill Cosby guilty of hurting women? It’s more complex than you might think.”
  1. TVA says:

    Darren Sharper at least admitted his guilt and faced the consequences. Man up Cosby, you are not bigger than life. he will die before he is convicted.
    his reputation is shot. Fry his ass while he’s alive. That many professional women don’t lie! His wife can only cover so long until she’s on the stand. that’s why all the delays in trial. THE OBVIOUS IS THERE. ADMIT THE GUILT! Give these women some sense of closure on your selfish wrongdoings.

  2. Ellsworth Johnson says:

    There is a disturbing pattern in society that black men are presumed guilty. it is this presumption of guilt that drives profiling in urban areas and in the social media. Once they are presumed guilty they are frequently demonized as the poster child for a particular issue which is the subject of moral panic. Adrian Peterson became the poster child for child abuse for spanking his child, something done rightly or wrongly by 80% of parents in the South. The issue is not whether Cosby is guilty or innocent , it is the presumption that we start with in his case. Cosby was presumed guilty.

    We should take seriously any accusation of sexual assault. To do that requires a process of investigation which includes questioning the witness for details. “Who else witnessed it ?” for example. Notice that in all these cases the assaults took place in settings where there would have been witnesses that they were together whether at the Playboy club or at the hotels where the assaults allegedly took place. Yet in none of the cases did witnesses come forward to corroborate specific details in specific cases.

    Yet no one questions the accusers about this. Nor does any question the accusers about why they waited so long. There are also numerous accusers who make inconsistent statements. One witness writes book in which she describes a meeting with Bill Cosby in which he “blew her off.” Years later she remembers it differently: Bill Cosby drugged and raped her. Why has no one questioned the accusers about their inconsistencies?

    One witness was arrested for prostitution. No one questioned her about this arrest. Another witness as you note was disbarred. When she makes these charges none questions her about her disbarrment -which was for some kind of dishonesty I believe.

    The conspicuous and constant failure to test the veracity of the accusers by any kind of questioning much less cross examination says we have already made up our minds.

    Why have “we” made up our minds ? I think it has something to do with the number of accusers or the massive number of times Cosby’s guilt is assumed and repeated. People who make this argument must have never practiced law. When I was representing plaintiffs every settlement was confidential. it was confidential because of the concept of “proliferation of claims.” If others found out there as money – or fame- that came from making an allegation more allegations would come. This is a classic instance of proliferation of claims. The fact hat anyone who accues Bill Cosby gets a spotlight with Gloria Allred, gets on the The View, gets free representation etc guarantees that many will make accusations.

    All the stories follow the same open ended narrative. Try this experiment. Have a group of creative writing students get together and craft a narrative based on the details of the stories that have already been reported. Have them videotape a session in which they act out the part of a rape victim. Then compare their performances with those of the so called victims. See if you see a difference.

  3. Leah says:

    Honestly, I dont know whether he is guilty or not. Whike rape is difficult to prove even when fresh and sexual abuse being widespread in show business, the way the women gave been coming forward seems suspicious. I am more inclined to think that Cosby has pissed off somebody powerful. I believe in a democratic society due process must be upheld irrespective of the number of alleged victims. Right now we have allegations but no evidence. We also have the lacrosse rape case as a reminder of the vigilance we must show she accusing people of rape. This may well be a conspiracy against Cosby as it was in the case of M.Jackson, who had his entire career trashed in seconds. Anyways lets not be quick to judge but await the due process.

  4. Skip says:

    Both black and white women have complained. If it were a white man accused then the media would have jumped all over this and labeled the man a pervert. Since it is a famous black man accused, everyone is scared to assume the women might be right. What’s up with that!

  5. Meh says:

    He seems doped up all the time can’t imagine how he couldn’t have assaulted someone, crime or not any crack pot theorist could tell you he seems a little off in the noggin.

  6. Sapphyreopal5 says:

    I’m amazed at how people have so little comprehension of how the mind of a sexual abuse victims really ticks (at least for those who do not come forward or wait until years later to do it). First of all, the process of gathering evidence after being sexually violated (therefore tissue recently traumatized) is a very traumatizing experience in itself (being “violated” again). Second, do people realize that law enforcement agents actually tend to treat victims as the criminals and the perpetrator as innocent often times in the interrogation process? It’s also a hell of an ordeal when people treat victims as “sluts” and such There’s also a complex mixture of fear, belief that telling will do nothing to better their situation or anyone else’s, being overwhelmed with the healing process, etc. In many states, the time limit for reporting such crimes goes up to 20 years in some states.

    You people who claim it’s all about money because they didn’t report it right away disgust me.

  7. Mary says:

    Your information is wrong. The original accuser went to the police in 2004. (No one went to the police?) The district attorney dismissed the criminal case (maybe because of who he was…um Oj Simpson anyone?) and the only recourse was to sue him civilly, which thirteen women did. And now they are all coming forward and telling their stories, among others. The count I believe is up to 18 and at this point the ones who are coming forward are all past the point of getting money from him. This seems like an unbiased write up but it’s factually incorrect and therefore in forces the bias that he is innocent. No person (man or woman) can say what a person would do when being abused. Abused people are notoriously known for going back to their abuser. Someone asked why would a woman go back “she kept meeting with him” and “they would have said something so long ago” You have obviously have never read about the shame and terror women feel after being raped, especially by someone so incredibly powerful and the majority of them being in their teens. I dare you to go and actually read about the psychology of a rape victim, and see how easy it was from someone to come forward and challenge someone beloved by society all by themselves. Go ahead. Before you respond read some psychology and educate yourselves. This article is gravely wrong factually.

  8. Filoundikah says:

    I think Cosby is innocent! i mean who the hell gets raped then goes back for more??? and the fact that he was financing “certain things”?? come on man, this sounds like a case of “no romance without finance” and if I can’t get a “break” then I’m gonna lie and say “you rape”

  9. nookidoke says:

    Why do “we” the people deserve to know the “truth” about Cosby (and not the accusers? It’s really none of our business. These women want our attention for their own reasons/motivations.
    Also, How can an 18 year old white women be viewed as a victim in this case? Celebrity or not, Cosby is a married senior citizen (and Black in America). He could be most vulnerable in this case, and could easily be the victim in this case.

  10. Gail says:

    Not one went to police! Now read where one has filed lawsuit with 10 listed as witnesses! Not by name but Jane Doe! Of the ten, 8 have filed suit, the other two are seeking counsel! I do not believe!

  11. My Oh My says:

    Bill Cosby is innocent, those women are lying because if something happened, they would have said something all those years ago.

  12. Jeff says:

    I think it has been a long time and she would have a tough time proving it. She kept meeting with him and if she was scared she did not have to do that, we make our own decisions in life and if she claims her agent advised her that is simply what it was advice. With advice you can take it or leave it, she chose to take it, this could be a case of revenge maybe he did not further her career as she had hoped and she is out for revenge. I think leave it in the past it has been too long and would be hard to prove and I trust bill cosby’ s word over hers. He is well respected and has been for years she is merely out for her ten minutes of fame and she has got it so put it to rest and leave the guy alone

  13. toomanygrandkids says:

    I read that this so-called rape happened years ago. As usual, these so-called victims will wait for decades to pass before saying anything. Why didn’t she report this incident ASAP or the next day. Most of the time when a so-called rape victim willingly has sex with a man, she’ll cry rape because something doesn’t get something she wants like lots of money and, fame, or whatever else she can benefit from. It’s a possibility that this victim saw how famous Bill Cosby was becoming and felt as though she should be reaping some of those benefits since she had sex with him. I’m quite sure there will be more to this story.

  14. Marie Cobbs says:

    When women are raped or abused, they must file a complaint with the police and then go to a lawyer. A lawyer in most cases is looking at the bottom line; can he or she make money out of this. The police is where you go when a crime is committed. I am not saying that these things did not happened but the action of the makes it hard to believe.

  15. Marie Cobbs says:

    I remember when Bill Cosby made the statement about the responsibility of Black people that went viral but for the life of me I don’t remember any discussion about charges of sexual abuse and I am a Black feminist. After saying that I don’t mean that women can make accusations that should be considered as facts simply because they said it happened. What happened is two women accused him, there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him and the case was dropped. But like Michael Jackson charges were dropped and they both were sued in civil court and a settlement was made. Based on that we will never know whether or not they were guilty. Regardless who is the abuser, women must charge them with abuse as soon as possible, especially when rape is involved because there is evidence not years later.

  16. BGB says:

    This caught me off guard, this story. Fact of the matter is, for whatever it means in terms of the media or me personally, when I read about the earlier allegations, I only had a vague recollection that I must not have thought much about at the time. The story came and went and I didn’t even allow myself to think about it, I guess. Must have figured if there was anything to it I’d get an ear full for a long time to come, and then the general public/media dismissal allowed me to avoid it. An icon like this, nobody wants to know, I don’t think. If it’s true, it decimates our memories and if it’s false, it’s a tragedy that it got this far. This is a good write-up about the matter though, for as much as I hate to hear any of it.

  17. JC says:

    Black males raping white girls? Naaaah, I just can’t believe such a crazy notion.

  18. Christopher Carbone says:

    Your entry is a very well-balanced and even handed attempt to explain this complex issue. I won’t lie: I don’t want to believe that Cosby did these terrible things, having grown up with him (Picture Pages, Bill Cosby Himself, and then the Cosby Show), the man has been a fixture in my life. At the same time, if he did these acts to any of these women, he should be punished. Finally, though, this story has been re-published in many blogs, features and articles as “fact,”; the public seems to have this insatiable need to believe the worst in people and not to explore the actual facts.

  19. Ida Rose says:

    For the record, Barbara Bowman did seek the advice of an attorney, but he laughed her out of his office either because he didn’t believe her or he was afraid to go up against someone as powerful as Cosby.

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